Words: Brian Blakely
Photos: Jonathan Mehring
Recently, a crew of about 25 dudes went out to India to help build the country’s first free public skate park. I hit up Al Partanen for some insight on what it was like to be a part of the crew who built the park. Al, along with Chet Childress, Stefan Janoski and a small crew of skaters/builders pitched in for 2 weeks straight under the heavy sun of India to ensure a future for the skateboarding scene in India and to give the locals a free place to skate in peace. India has been quite a theme lately. From the India feature in our current issue to Jonathan Mehring’s photo recap from this build, I’ve been tripping out on the thought of skateboarding being so new and unseen in other countries. It’s such a common entity in most of our lives, yet we take for granted all the amazing parks that pop up every couple of years. There are people out there who truly have no idea what a skateboard is, and/or have to literally work their asses off just to skate something cool. That’s gnarly! Seeing the joy on the faces of people who ride a skateboard for the first time is awesome though, and seeing the creativity and different take on skateboarding that some of the locals out their possess is refreshing. A skateboard is just a skateboard, but there are a million things you can do on that damn piece of rolling wood!
Click here for a photo recap from Jonathan Mehring while he was out with crew building the park, and check below for an exclusive interview with Al Partanen as he gives us some insight on what it was like to be a part of this epic project.
How did you get involved with the project? You, Chet, Omar, Stefan and a few others were involved, what is the story behind you guys being selected to go out and build?
Our buddy Alex Irvine hit Chet & I up to see if we wanted to get involved. We were hyped to go and Nike was down to help out. Omar & Stefan arrived via Levi’s and Mehring had just come off of an India trip with Malto and some other rippers. It just worked out.
Have you ever been a part of a project like this? How familiar are you with building skate parks? Was there someone sort of spear heading the project?
Yeah, we (Chet & I) worked on a park last year in Costa Rica and I worked for the skatepark company Grindline a few years back. Holy Stoked & the 2er crew got the ball rolling and Levis put up the cash for build.
What was a normal day like for you guys? Were the days pretty grueling or was it more of a fun, beer-drenched project?
Finishing a park in 2 weeks is pretty epic in itself. We had almost 25 dudes working in 4 or 5 small crews. Each crew was kind of doing their own section but helping each other to keep things flowing. It was hard work but well worth it!
Had you ever been to India prior? What were your initial thoughts of this country?
I’ve never been to India but always wanted to go. People drive crazy and use their horns instead of brakes but still, people weren’t road raging. I feel like India has a lot of potential for growth and change in many ways.
What’s the skate scene like out there? Besides this park that you guys built, were there any others to skate?
There’s one other park in Bangalore, it’s fun, but you have to pay 200 rupees. I don’t think the general population can afford that so it’s somewhat out of reach. Despite being such a massive city, it was pretty rugged skate/spot wise.
How does it feel to be part of such a monumental, positive project? Skateboarding is commonly used as an outlet and I think countries like India need the opportunity to experience things like this. Is it pretty rewarding?
Of course, It feels good to be able to build the culture. Giving back to skateboarding is a great way to ensure that it will be there for you and for future skaters to enjoy. Especially in India, it was like planting a seed.
What was it like being able to skate something you helped build? And how stoked was everyone else who was involved?
It’s the best! You can feel that energy and excitement when you skate something like this.
Will you ever make it back and skate the park in the future?
We want to do a reunion tour with the whole crew. Also, I want to see how people have embraced the project and how things have progressed.
After seeing such a positive change and movement take place, would you ever consider doing something like this in other countries that wouldn’t normally be thought of?
Absolutely! Give me the call & I’m ready to go! I’ve even been doing some small projects here in the states until the next opportunity arises.
Closing thoughts and any words of wisdom for anyone out there trying to do something similar?
Building is not that complicated or expensive. You just need space, basic supplies and an imagination. Go for it and learn from your mistakes. No matter how crappy the spot is, it’s your crappy spot. A few hours or even days of work can yield a lot of fun for you and your friends.
Anything else you might like to add:
Check out these videos from Levi’s Skateboarding from the build as well.
Levi’s Skateboarding in India part 1:
Levi’s Skateboarding in India part 2: